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Fasting from sunrise to sunset makes training tougher for Muslim footballers

Ramadan is one of the most important months in the Islamic calendar, and devout Muslims all over the world observe its significance by fasting from sunrise to sunset. This means that they have to refrain from eating food and drinking all kinds of fluids, including water.

This year, Ramadan coincides with the training for the World Cup, and Muslim football players representing their country are having a hard time. Practicing on the field every day for hours can be especially tiring for them since no intake of food or water leaves them weak and dehydrated.

Among over 100 footballers from six nations where Muslims are a majority, is Omar Gaber from Egypt. This year is the first time his country will be playing the World Cup in 28 years, and the pressure to remain true to his faith as well as his country is intense. While he wants to give his all during practice, he finds it difficult to do so while fasting.

Another such player is Tunisian vice-captain Wahbi Khazri. Observing the holy months while preparing for the World Cup is no easy task for footballers and, with his country competing on the global platform for the first time in twelve years, the pressure is even more intense. “It is very difficult. We cannot eat or drink. It is very complicated to prepare as we want,” he admits.

However, Khazri and his team have found a way to help those fasting in their teams. Mouez Hassen, Tunisian goalkeeper, noticing that his fasting teammates were getting tired and weak, faked an injury at sunset. While he was getting treatment, they could rush to the sidelines to eat and drink.

Chair of Islamic Shura Council of Southern California, Ahmed Soboh says that how each individual observes the holy month of Ramadan is completely a personal choice. “If a player feels that he doesn’t want to fast, no one can force them to fast. And if a player says, ‘I want to fast,’ no one can force him to break his fast. It’s all about personal choices and individual decisions.”

Even though Muslim players are weakened from fasting, they have managed to keep a positive attitude and remain hopeful. Ramadan will end on Thursday, the same day that the World Cup will begin.

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